NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The recession has taken its toll on Social Security. The officials who oversee the program forecast Tuesday that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted by 2037 - four years earlier than estimated last year.
The trust fund reflects a $2.4 trillion surplus paid into Social Security over 20 years that Uncle Sam has borrowed, spent and promised to pay back. Trust fund exhaustion represents the point at which only 76% of benefits could be paid out.
The main reason for the change in forecast: Demand for benefits has grown while money paid in has fallen because of growing unemployment and new tax breaks in the economic stimulus package passed in February.
Since the start of 2008, 5.7 million payroll tax jobs have disappeared. And another 4.3 million jobs are being filled on a part-time basis.
In the nearer term, the trustees estimate that Social Security will take in fewer taxes than the benefits that will be paid out by 2016. Last year, they estimated the near-term shortfall would occur in 2017.